Africa, Canadian Mining Interests, Human Cargo and Re-education
[Montréal, Québec, Canada 18°C] Last night, I watched the five last episodes of the 2004 six-part television series, Human Cargo, directed by Brad Turner. I watched it on DVD borrowed from the well-stocked video library at La Grande Bibliothèque. The winner of seven Gemini Awards, including best director and best miniseries, the series follows parallel stories and characters closely related to human migration issues. The series is set mostly in Vancouver, where migrants seeking refugee status in Canada deal with the Immigration and Refugee Board’s (IRB) corruptibility, and in Burundi where a civil war between Tutsis and Hutus, exacerbated by human rights violations by a Canadian mining corporation.
I recommend Human Cargo for anyone interested in humanitarian aid. One of the main characters played by Cara Pifko, is the idealistic and naive daughter of IRB commissioner who heads to Burundi to work for an aid agency and discovers that international aid is not always helpful. International aid in volatile situations can provoke killings by warring factions from the value of the food and other resources it provides to people displaced by war.
The series also offers a critic of Canada’s Immigration and Refugee Board processes and structure through the character of the politically connected commissioner (played by Kate Nelligan) whose racist tendencies and ignorance of foreign cultures are challenged by her daughter’s humanitarian foray and by the refugee applicants whose fate she decides upon. Her ability to empathize with refugee claimants is seriously tested by a Burundi man (played by Bayo Akinfemi) who lost everything in the civil war (including his family who found themselves in the displacement camp where the commissioner’s daughter worked) and managed to find his way to Vancouver along very difficult routes.
A particularly moving scene is when the Burundi man describes to the commissioner his capture by soldiers who bring him to the Canadian-run gold mine where he is locked up, forced to work the mine and tortured before escaping during a battle between the soldiers and private rebel security hired by the mining company.
Immediately after this scene, the commissioner meets up with a former lover who was previously employed in the Prime Minister’s Office. He is with the CEO of the Canadian mining company who was present during excecutions of the some of the forced-labour prisoners. The CEO is portrayed as an unsavoury character who believes that Canada was built on mining and its current position in the G8 is directly related to having access around the world to resources—at any cost.
The CEO’s bile-infested dialogue leads the commissioner to storm out of the meeting, resign from the Immigration and Refugee Board, and call for a reexamination of immigration policy and of the review of Canadian corporations’ behaviour around the world.
Oddly enough, the first email I received this morning had a link to the Canadian mining industry. It included an attachment of the May 2009 report, Mining Capital and the Corporatization of Public Education in Toronto: Building a Global City or Building a Globally Ignorant City? (.pdf).
The document reports on the Canadian mining industry’s “sustained effort to intervene directly in public institutions of education across Canada at all levels […] to promote its own sector-based interests.” According to the report, the re-education project launched by mining corporations and their lobbying affiliates “was launched in response to the growing criticism of the [mining] industry by environmentalists, indigenous communities, unions, and other civil society organizations in Canada and around the world, for its global environmental, labour, and human rights abuses.”
The well-documented report takes a look at “mining industry corporatization of public education in Toronto,” which is the world’s most important mining sector centre with more than 60% of all global mining financing coming from the Toronto Stock Exchange and “home to more mining corporations than anywhere else.” The report focusses on three sites where the mining industry has “directly intervened in public education in Toronto.” One is the Mining Matters education program established in 1994 by the Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada, a primary lobbying organization of the mining industry. Second is the sponsorship of mineral research and education at the University of Toronto. And the third is the mining and minerals permanent galleries and special exhibitions at the Royal Ontario Museum.
The report mentions a tour of Toronto’s cultural corridor and Discover District that reveals various mining corporations and their senior executives who provide public relations funding (self-proclaimed as ‘philanthropy’) in exchange for having their names and reputations affiliated with medical, education and arts centres.
The tour includes the Peter Munk Cardiac Centre (Munk is the chairman and founder of world’s largest mining corporation, Barrick Gold, that is suing small publisher and authors of Noir Canada : Pillage, corruption et criminalité en Afrique for libel. The case was filed in the province of Québec, where the Minister of Justice, Jacques Dupuis, filed on June 13, 2009 a bill amending the Code of Civil Procedure to prevent misuse of the courts by filing SLAPPs: Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation. The new bill will allow publisher, Écosociété, and the book’s authors to test the anti-SLAPP bill with Barrick Gold’s lawsuit. Shortly after Barrick’s lawsuit in Québec, another Canadian mining corporation, Banro filed a similar lawsuit against the same publisher in Toronto, Ontario, which doesn’t have anti-SLAPP legislation.)
Other sites on the tour include the University of Toronto’s Lassonde Mineral Engineering Program (named after gold-magnate Peter Lassonde) and its Munk Centre for International Relations. It continues northward to the Royal Ontario Museum’s (ROM) new Micheal Lee-Chin Crystal that was modelled on the structure of a mineral formation.
The report states that the ROM “is ground zero for mining philanthropy in the city,” with its Teck Cominco Suite of Galleries of the Earth’s Treasures, the Vale Inco Limited Gallery of Minerals, the Canadian Mining Hall of Fame, the Munk Debates and recent special exhibition, the De Beers Nature of Diamonds.
Below is a video I edited a few years ago about resistence in Canada and in India of a proposed Alcan bauxite mine in Kashipur India:
A good source for information about Canadian mining activities around the world is Mining Watch.